Welcome to the first in a series called Get to Know Your Herbs and Spices. Allspice is one of my favorite “warm” spices. Warm spices add depth to your dish; cinnamon, ginger and nutneg are good examples.
If you are like most people, when you hear the word “allspice” you think it must be a combination of spices.
Actually allspice is a berry of the Pimenta officinalis, a tropical evergreen tree. The Spanish named it “pimento” because the berry closely resembles peppercorns. That’s why it is also called Jamaican pepper. Columbus is credited with discovering this berry during a trip to the West Indies. It may not have been what he set out to bring back, but if you ever used this spice you know why he did.
For culinary purposes, green berries are used because the flavor of ripe allspice berries is too strong. When ground the berries have a flavor and aroma resembling a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
Allspice is used in everything from flavoring meats, baked goods, liquor and even chewing gum! You can use the berries whole in pickling and curing food or grind the berries and use alone or in combination with other spices. Allspice can also be purchased already ground.
Here’s one of my favorite recipes I created using allspice.
Peachy Chicken Breasts
I use allspice here to compliment the brown sugar and OJ. Add a dash of red pepper flakes to give it a little more zing if you like!
- 1 lb Chicken breasts — boned and skinned (4 ounces each)
- ½ cup brown sugar firmly packed
- 1 cup peaches, fresh or frozen, thinly sliced
- ½ cup orange juice
- 1 Tbsp allspice
- 1 tsp allspice
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- Cooking spray, as needed
- Spray baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange breasts in single layer.
- Sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon allspice the ¼ cup brown sugar.Pour orange juice around the outside of breasts.
- Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
- Add peaches the rest of the brown sugar and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon allspice. Cover and bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes until internal temperature is 165 and juices run clear.
Spice, Jack Turner © 2005 First Vintage Books
FOOD RESOURCE, Public Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University